lunes, 30 de marzo de 2009

Another Foe of Chechen Leader Shot Dead Abroad

Published: New York Times, March 30, 2009

MOSCOW — A former Chechen general and foe of Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed president, Ramzan A. Kadyrov, was shot to death over the weekend in the Persian Gulf enclave of Dubai, the victim of an apparent assassination, the police there said on Monday.

Kazbek Vakhayev/European Pressphoto Agency
Sulim Yamadayev, right, talking to a member of the Russian forces.

The victim, Sulim B. Yamadayev, was shot at least three times outside an elite apartment complex in Dubai, but it was unclear exactly when the attack took place, or whether he died immediately or only on Monday as some press reports have claimed.

Still, the killing bears the imprimatur of other assassinations carried out against Chechens in Russia and abroad who have run afoul of Mr. Kadyrov and his government.

In January this year, a Chechen hit man tracked down and killed Umar S. Israilov, a former bodyguard of Mr. Kadyrov, who had received asylum in Austria after accusing the Chechen president and officials in his circle of kidnapping, torture and murder.

Mr. Yamadayev’s brother, Ruslan, was shot to death in his car last September as he waited in a traffic jam in Moscow just outside the White House, the government building that houses the offices of Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin.

Mr. Kadyrov’s government has denied responsibility for these deaths and others, and Alvi A. Karimov, Mr. Kadyrov’s spokesman, said on Monday that the president had no information about the killing of Mr. Yamadayev in Dubai.

But Mr. Yamadayev, a decorated general and, until last year, commander of his own heavily armed fighting force in Chechnya, was perhaps Mr. Kadyrov’s most powerful and well-known adversary, and had often clashed openly with the president.

A separatist fighter in Russia’s first Chechen war in 1990’s, Mr. Yamadayev, 36, later switched allegiances and fought with pro-Moscow-forces in the second war that began in 1999. He was later named head of the Vostok Battalion, a contingent of former separatists co-opted into the Russian army that became notorious for its daring raids on militant hideouts as well as its callous disregard for civilian casualties.

For their service, Mr. Putin awarded both Mr. Yamadayev and Mr. Kadyrov the Hero of Russia medal, the country’s highest honor.

Mr. Yamadayev ultimately emerged as something of an independent power center in Chechnya. He was backed by Moscow, but his growing authority inevitably brought him into conflict with Mr. Kadyrov, whom the Kremlin has invested with almost total authority to return stability to Chechnya after more than a decade of war and turmoil.

In April last year, an altercation on a Chechen country road between troops from Mr. Yamadayev’s Vostok Battalion and guards from Mr. Kadyrov’s motorcade ended in gunfire. According to some reports, Mr. Kadyrov personally intervened to avoid bloodshed.

Shortly after, Mr. Yamadayev was stripped of his command and charged with involvement in kidnappings and murders, though there have been persistent reports that he commanded his Vostok troops in fighting during Russia’s war with Georgia last August.

According to Russian press reports, Mr. Yamadayev, his wife and their six children left Russia in December.

A reporter for The New York Times in Dubai contributed reporting.

jueves, 19 de marzo de 2009

Southern Africa rejects Madagascar's new leader

By THULANI MTHETHWA Associated Press Writer, in Salon

Mar 19th, 2009 | MBABANE, Swaziland -- Southern Africa will not recognize Madagascar's new leader, an army-backed politician who ousted an elected president, key regional leaders said Thursday.

After a mini-summit about the Indian Ocean island, in Swaziland on Thursday, the main decision-making committee of the Southern African Development Community also urged the African Union and the international community not to recognize Andry Rajoelina as president and called for a return to "democratic and constitutional rule in the shortest time possible."

After months of street protests, Marc Ravalomanana resigned as Madagascar's president Tuesday and placed power in the hands of the military. Within hours, the military announced it was making opposition leader Andry Rajoelina president.

The regional leaders meeting Thursday said that if Rajoelina refuses to relinquish power to Ravalomanana, the bloc would recommend imposing sanctions.

Madagascar is a member of the regional bloc. Thursday's meeting, chaired by Swazi King Mswati III, included Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, South African Defense Minister Charles Nqakula, and the bloc's executive secretary, Tomaz Salomao.

Earlier Thursday, Zambian Foreign Affairs Minister Kabinga Pande called Rajoelina's coming to power in Madagascar "a setback and danger to the entrenchment of democracy and constitutional rule on the continent which should not be allowed to take root."

In a statement in government papers Thursday, Pande also called for the suspension of Madagascar from both the Southern African Development Community and the African Union. The AU was to have held its annual meeting in Madagascar later this year.

An AU committee was to meet Friday, to examine whether the events in Madagascar constituted a coup, which would lead to Madagascar's automatic suspension.

Rajoelina has accused his ousted rival of misspending public funds and undermining democracy, and said Wednesday his rise was a victory for "true democracy" over dictatorship. He had promised new elections within two years.

France, Madagascar's former colonial power and current main donor, said that two years was "too long" to wait for elections.

Ravalomanana had accused Rajoelina of seeking power by unconstitutional means, since under the constitution the opposition leader was too young to become president.

Some of Rajoelina's anti-government protests had led to deadly clashes. The deaths of at least 25 civilians last month cost Ravalomanana the backing of many in the military, and a mutiny spread and gained popular support.

Associated Press Writer Lewis Mwanangombe in Lusaka, Zambia contributed to this report.